Ding dong, the New York Yankees-Boston Red Sox American League Championship Series is dead.
No more Idiots, no more books, no more Jeter's noble looks. The Red Sox were dispatched Friday by the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees were beaten in Game 5 Monday by the Los Angeles Angels, 5-3. Those two teams will play in the series reserved lately for the two big-money, big-headline, East Coast powers.
The last time someone other than New York and Boston played for the American League flag was in 2002, when these same Angels, before they moved from Anaheim down the road to Los Angelesofanaheim, beat the Minnesota Twins. The last time the ALCS wasn't Red Sox-Yankees, Aaron Boone was a Cincinnati Red, Kevin Millar was a Florida Marlin and steroids were not a problem in baseball.
Eighteen million books have been written about the 2003 and especially 2004 Yankees and Red Sox. If anybody ever wrote a book about the Twins vs. the Angels in 2002, I never heard about it, though a Google search did turn up an anime porn movie called "Twin Angels." Let's see the BoSox and Yanks match that.
So now the Angels have to play their third game in as many days and as many time zones. They played Sunday night in New York and Monday night in Anaheim and the ALCS opens Tuesday night in Chicago. The National League Championship doesn't start until Wednesday night. The Houston Astros will have had two days off by then, the St. Louis Cardinals three.
Why can't baseball be flexible enough in its schedule to avoid this situation? The ALCS teams were supposed to have a day off before the start of the series even if their division series went five games, but the Yankees and Angels were pushed back a day by a rainout.
So couldn't the ALCS and NLCS schedules be flipped, the National League starting Tuesday and the American League starting Wednesday, so one of the A.L. teams wouldn't be at the competitive disadvantage of having had to play three games, fly 5,000 miles and cross time-zone lines five times in three days, while the other has been sitting at home for half a week?
The postseason schedule is largely dictated by the demands of the television networks, which from this time forward means Fox, but isn't there a point at which the integrity of the competition becomes more important than such a relatively minor question as which league starts Tuesday and which starts Wednesday?
Obviously not. The question is: Why not?
"The schedule is just made," said Mike Teevan, a spokesman in the commissioner's office. "Going into the playoffs, teams make their plans based on the schedule that's already made. So if you're a club and you're building your plans around one schedule, the fact that it would be malleable could change your pitching, it could change resting players."
I asked if flipping the LCS schedules might be less unfair to the Astros and Cardinals than the brutal travel schedule of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday is to the Angels.
"I don't know, there's definitely precedent for what the Angels are experiencing," Teevan said, citing the A's-Yankees series in 2001 and teams that have had to play single-game playoffs on the Monday off day between the last day of the season and the first day of the postseason. "Travel is definitely a hardship, but it's kind of inherent to what baseball teams and players go through throughout the season."
Whether the Angels' situation is unfair, Teevan says, is "just a matter of opinion."
Another question I'm sure readers have because I get e-mails about it every year: Given that baseball goes to great, competition-affecting lengths to avoid first-round games being played at the same time, wedging an off day into one of the four series and starting West Coast games as late as 11 p.m. EDT, why aren't the same measures taken to avoid simultaneous games in the League Championship Series, which are more important and thus bigger television events?
Game 2 of the ALCS and Game 1 of the NLCS are both scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, with Fox hench network FX carrying one of the games.
Fox answered that question for this column two years ago: More people are able to see the two games if they're on simultaneously in prime time than if one of them were played in the afternoon, the network said.
Next Wednesday, when NLCS Game 6 and ALCS Game 7 would be played if both series last that long, the National League game is scheduled for the afternoon. The thinking there, Fox said, is that elimination games are important enough that people will find their way to a TV on a weekday afternoon.
So what you'll see when you get to your TV Tuesday night is a well-rested White Sox club playing a very tired Angels team with a pitching staff in shambles.
Ervin Santana, a starter who was slated to be a reliever in the postseason, effectively turned in a start Monday, pitching five and a third innings after Bartolo Colon left the game with back and shoulder problems that may keep him out of the ALCS.
That means Santana will be unavailable out of the pen for a few days, and longer than that if Colon, optimistically penciled in to start Game 4 as of posting time, can't go and Santana has to take the ball.
Meanwhile, Jarrod Washburn is still struggling with a throat infection, John Lackey pitched on Sunday and the bullpen is just generally tired. The Angels' Game 1 starter looks like it will be Paul Byrd, who'll have to go on three days' rest.
The good news is he only pitched three and two-thirds innings on Friday. The bad news is that was because he got raked for four runs on seven hits and two walks. Also, he's nobody's idea of a Game 1 starter even on full rest.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have a well-rested pitching staff and their starters aligned just how they want them: Jose Contreras in Game 1, then Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia.
The Angels and White Sox, each the second team in its own hometown, lack the glamour of the Yankees and Red Sox, but this promises to be a fun, exciting series if the Angels aren't torpedoed by fatigue. Both teams put the ball in play and like to run. They also both have tough, unorthodox managers, Mike Scioscia and Ozzie Guillen, who aren't afraid to shoot their mouths off.
It's a pretty even matchup, but I think the schedule tips the balance for Chicago. White Sox in six.
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Can't anybody here cover this game? [PERMALINK]
You have to give Fox credit. The TV network that brings us baseball's biggest events isn't content to rest on its laurels. Every year it finds interesting new ways to suck at covering the game.
This year's innovation is the replay box. Unless I missed its debut in Game 1 of the Yankees-Angels series Tuesday, Fox unveiled the replay box on its second postseason broadcast, Game 2 of the Astros and Braves Thursday.
Atlanta manager Bobby Cox came out to argue a bang-bang play at first base, and after a moment of showing this, Fox went to the replay. Only instead of filling the screen with the play, Fox consigned it to a picture-within-a-picture box that covered perhaps 40 percent of the screen.
So why did America have to squint at the close play in a vain try to figure out if the batter had been safe or out at first? Because Fox didn't want us to miss the live action, which was Cox walking back to the dugout. Thrills and chills aplenty in that shot.
I've seen Bobby Cox walk back to the dugout a lot of times. There's really nothing to it. I can understand sacrificing a decent view of a close play to watch Naomi Campbell walk back to the dugout. Bobby Cox, no.
The replay box has made regular appearances since then. Most of the time, such as when Juan Rivera was ruled safe at first on a grounder to Alex Rodriguez Monday, Fox also shows the replay in full screen. But not always.
Props also to MSNBC.com, of all places, for actually getting the box score right on Sunday's 18-inning Houston Astros-Atlanta Braves game. More than a century into the lifetime of the newspaper box score, who would have guessed how complicated it is to get the score-by-innings right for an extra-inning game?
Alone among the major sports Web sites I surveyed, MSNBC's line score showed all 18 innings.
The ever-puzzling MLB.com found a creative way to screw up its box score, listing the score by innings starting with the 12th, but helpfully including a nonexistent 19th inning in the line score.
In case you missed it: Neither team did anything in the 19th inning. By the way, I've given you the link for the box score, and I bet some of you still won't be able to find it, which won't be your fault.
Previous column: 18 innings!
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